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Statewide Homegrown 2

Beach Reads to Keep Arkansas on Your Mind


The beach, the waves, the sand and the seagulls, are beckoning your heart, drawing your extra attention and yet, Arkansas is still and always home. So, why not pack a book to read to keep Arkansas on your mind while your feet are in a different location this summer?

These 23 authors tell profoundly moving and entertaining stories set in Arkansas. They will make you cry, laugh and picture locations from other vacations and business travels. They will pull from childhood memories, bucket list dreams, and maybe even a fear or two.

Grab your beach hat and sand chair; it’s time to choose a great read. If a cabin has your heart instead this summer, no worries. I prefer a mountain view and afternoon coffee while I read, too!

Personal note: These books cover many topics as their characters navigate past and present. We respect that readers experience triggers for a variety of topics. Please read summaries and descriptions before you get lost in these gripping tales that take you back through Arkansas history, fictional or not. 

Where the Wind Leads | Vinh Chung – the story of one family’s sacrifice of leaving it all in Vietnam to find a safe place for their family in America. Discover their life among the boat people of the Vietnamese refugees, miraculously rescued and brought to Fort Smith. A reminder that chasing the American Dream comes with a heavy responsibility.

Planting Jasmine | Delilah Dewey – summer nostalgia mixes with teen regret as Jamie returns to her hometown for a seasonal job. Her dreamy landlord has her attention, but he is off-limits, and she might be more than he can handle.

Calico Joe | John Grisham – a seasonal summer classic for dads and baseball fans everywhere when the kid from Calico Rock sweeps the summer on the mound. But it’s a fateful game, and what happens off the field makes a summer they will never forget. This gripping story is an excellent audio download while you travel.

Hot Springs | Stephen Hunter – a captivating read about real characters in a fiction tale through the 1940s in Hot Springs. Readers will immerse themselves in a Great Gatsby-style crime-conscious tale as former military officers and FBI agents join to take down the greatest crime.

Storykeeper | Daniel A. Smith – a story about the first settlers of Arkansas, where three sixteenth-century journals hold the secrets from Spanish conquistadors and one sacred Storyteller must be found to unlock the mysteries. The author used his curiosity for archeological research to discover hidden stories about the earliest settlers of Arkansas.

The Gods of Green County | Mary Elizabeth Pope – Coralee Harper can’t imagine that she is seeing her dead brother around town. Is it real or just a ghost? And how can the whole town be against her?

Malice in Maggody Series | Joan Hess – the Arly Hanks mystery series is a perfect place to get lost this summer. Leaving Manhattan and arriving in her hometown as the first female chief of police, Arly thinks she’s stepping on the easy train as she recollects her life. But a prison escape and police evasion quickly change her mind as she must use her sleuth skills to survive.

Sugar | Bernice L. McFadden – a summertime story of loss, forgiveness, grief and unlikely friendship.

A Lack of Temperance | Anna Loan-Wilsey – a cozy historical novel based in Eureka Springs in 1892 and the evaluation of the prohibition movement. Hattie, who has moved to town as a private traveling secretary, uses her business and botany skills as a detective when her new boss goes missing before she’s even begun her work.

An Undercurrent of Murder | Joe David Rice – the ultimate Arkansas adventure story with a gripping plot twist. As a retired Arkansas Tourism Director, the author uses his deep knowledge of the Buffalo River backcountry to create an edge-of-your-seat novel.

Bernice Runs Away | Talya Boerner – a book club read sweeping across Arkansas where an octogenarian escapes her hometown, hides it from her children, chases lost love, and makes a new friend with a younger guy. You will picture yourself pulled over on the side of the road and driving through the lake towns of your childhood.

All My Knotted-Up Life: A Memoir | Beth Moore – Beth recounts her years of growing up in South Arkansas with sweet memories and childhood trauma that stayed with her all her life. Consume this as an audiobook on your drive and listen to the words unfold from Beth’s narration.

The Principles Behind Flotation | Alexandra Teague – a poetically written story about navigating teen years while trying to stay true to yourself. The quirky characters and friends will remind you of many Arkansans you already know.

Poison Parcheesi and Wine | Jane Elzey – what’s a better beach read than finding four helpless Arkansas shop holders hosting the state’s tourism conference when a mysterious death occurs? They follow the clues and a summer festival to the Arkansas Wine Country to see if they can piece together all the details and determine who dun it.

Ozark Dogs | Eli Cranor – a second novel by this breakout, award-winning crime author, brings us back to the River Valley with a gripping tale of two families at odds for generations and a young girl caught in the crosshairs of their rivalry.

Lions of Little Rock | Kristin Levine – a sweet story of friendship through one of Arkansas’ most challenging times, school desegregation. Maneuver racial tension, courage, resilience, and the reminder that children don’t always see in color when they find a place they belong.

The Daughter of Union County | Francine Thomas Howard – a Southern story of race and reinvention in a post-Civil War time where power is the most significant currency. One girl’s discovery to learn her ancestry and the freedom of discovering who you are is not always defined by where you came to be.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake | Jenny Wingfield – a suspenseful tale that every reader can relate to – a summer family reunion, a church homecoming, the illuminating innocence of childhood, and a tragedy that shakes all the characters to their core.

Shakespeare’s Landlord | Charlaine Harris – a fictional Arkansas town serves as the mysterious setting for a cleaning lady, and her desired simple life until she finds a dead body, no clues, and a lot of fingers pointing in her direction.

Alibis in Arkansas | Christine Lynxwiler – a light-hearted series of books where three Arkansas sisters always find themselves mixed up in a murder. And, as they learn, the crime never takes a vacation. The twists and turns will quickly captivate you in these three quick reads.

Let’s not leave out the kids and young adults. Activity books, quiet reading and bedtime stories are a must for everyone while you are traveling.

If you are headed beyond the beach to capture memories in our National Parks, do not leave home without Nicole Claesen’s Fun in 50 States or the National Parks activity book.

Benny in the Garden | Matt and Melissa Cooper – a rhyming tale of what goes wrong with a few wonky vegetables and how to embrace the unexpected.

Abby the Dog and Tigger the Cat | P.L. Rainey – this unlikely pair teaches a lesson of friendship and overcoming differences.

Koala is not a Bear | Kristin L. Gray – Koala just tries to find a place to belong at summer camp.

Giraffe, what do you like to eat? | Ashley Clontz – readers discover how the food on their plates fills them with nutrients while meeting a few furry friends and their food preferences.

Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe | Bette Green – this famed author brings us a Newberry honoree exploring young friendship and first love while realizing there may be more to accomplish with a changed attitude.

Making Friends with Billy Wong | Augusta Scattergood – a summer with her grandmother may remind reluctant Azalea that friendship can come unexpectedly, even if it is the Chinese American boy next door, as she learns how his family moved into this small Arkansas town.

And, if a summer road trip is on your plan, check out this list of games to entertain your family so you can catch up on your reading.

Meet the

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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2 responses to “Beach Reads to Keep Arkansas on Your Mind”

  1. Laurie Marshall says:

    I’ll be that author and plug my own book! If you have short bits of time for reading, or you’re only at the beach for a weekend, the short-short fiction collection format is perfect! ☺️
    On Amazon: Proof of Life https://a.co/d/iMKDIYv

  2. […] If you are heading to one of these beaches or your favorite local swimming hole this summer, be sure to pack your bag with one of these great beach reads. […]

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